Trump should insist on Libya-style denuclearization for North Korea: Bolton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - John Bolton, U.S. President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, said Trump should insist that any meeting he holds with North Korea’s leader must be focused squarely on how to eliminate that country’s nuclear weapons program as quickly as possible.
Bolton, a hawk who Trump named on Thursday to replace H.R. McMaster in the key security role, told Radio Free Asia on Monday that discussions at the proposed summit with Kim Jong Un should be similar to those that led to components of Libya’s nuclear program being shipped to the United States in 2004.
“Let’s have this conversation by May, or even before that, and let’s see how serious North Korea really is,” Bolton said, according to a transcript of his remarks posted on the RFA website on Friday.
“If they’re not prepared to have that kind of serious discussion, it could actually be a very short meeting.”
Bolton said North Korea had used negotiations in the past to camouflage its weapons development and he was skeptical about its intentions. He said U.S. ally South Korea, which restarted talks with North Korea this year, should be cautious before agreeing to anything with Pyongyang.
“We should insist that if this meeting is going to take place, it will be similar to discussions we had with Libya 13 or 14 years ago: how to pack up their nuclear weapons program and take it to Oak Ridge, Tennessee,” he said.
Bolton said it was important for Trump to “make the point that he’s not there to waste time and that we expect real denuclearization, not talks about talks about denuclearization, but concretely how we’re going to eliminate their program as quickly as possible.”
Bolton also said the United States should not offer North Korea economic aid, or a peace treaty, adding, “they’re lucky to be having a meeting with the President of the United States.”
Bolton, a hardliner who has advocated regime change and military force against North Korea, said no one wanted to see military action, but it would be a mistake to leave the country with nuclear weapons. He warned of the risk of Pyongyang selling nuclear weapons technology to Islamic State, al Qaeda, or any aspiring nuclear-weapons state.
“President Trump has unattractive options ... he doesn’t have much time,” Bolton said. “Somebody said, you know, we can’t kick the can down the road any further because there isn’t any road left.”
South Korean officials met Kim Jong Un this month and told Washington the leader was open to giving up his nuclear weapons if North Korea’s security was guaranteed.
Trump responded with a surprise announcement that he was willing to meet Kim before the end of May in a bid to resolve the crisis over North Korea’s development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States.
North Korea argues its weapons program is needed for defense, a belief analysts say is reinforced by the fate of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after giving up his nuclear program.
As the last sentence says, pretty damn foreboding considering what ultimately happened to Libya after its denuclearization...
For a somewhat more hopeful perspective, John Bolton has made it into the White House. Does this mean war?
John Bolton has made it into the White House. Does this mean war?
Trump has replaced his thoughtful national security adviser with a belligerent TV pundit. This is government by Fox News
Fri 23 Mar 2018 10.49 EDT
First published on Fri 23 Mar 2018 07.08 EDT
In the febrile days after Donald Trump’s election, one of the more terrifying prospects was the appointment of John Bolton to a senior position in the incoming administration. Bolton is the hawk’s hawk, the neocon’s neocon (though he rejects that label, preferring “Goldwater conservative” after the presidential candidate deemed too extreme by the American people in 1964). His published work includes “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran”, “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First” and “How to Defund the UN”. As George W Bush’s under secretary of state for arms control he was a rabidly enthusiastic supporter of the invasion of Iraq, and seems never to have fallen out of love with the doctrine of intervention, despite the catastrophe he helped engineer.
As Trump re-ran the Apprentice but for the job of America’s top diplomat, dangling the prize of secretary of state in front of Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, Bolton’s name was increasingly mentioned. But there was a sticking point: facial hair. “Donald was not going to like that moustache,” an associate of the president-elect told the Washington Post. “I can’t think of anyone that’s really close to Donald that has a beard that he likes.”
Bolton had fallen foul of the “right out of central casting” test. He didn’t look the part, unlike the don’t-mess-with-me-faced defence secretary James Mattis, or the bullet-headed national security adviser HR McMaster. That and the fact that the Republican Rand Paul vowed to block his appointment, which would have required Senate confirmation (“He should get nowhere close to the State Department.”) As a result, he remained outside the inner circle, having to content himself with opining on Fox News. Until Thursday.
Bolton is now national security adviser-designate, after McMaster was fired (the position doesn’t require congressional approval). And, once again, Trump’s top team looks like a bunch of rats in a sack, with no internal coherence or logic. The president ran as an anti-interventionist, repeatedly complaining about all the money America spent fighting wars, particularly Iraq. His soft line on Russia couldn’t be further from Bolton’s antagonistic approach.
So what does moustache-man’s promotion signal? Is there now going to be a decisive shift in favour of military intervention in Iran, North Korea and elsewhere, as Bolton would no doubt prefer?
The world is right to be nervous. But there is good reason to think that Bolton’s tenure may not mark an ideological sea-change. There are many causes of the Trump administration’s dysfunction. Prime among them is the idiosyncratic criteria the president applies to senior appointments. Candidates are not selected for their ability to all pull in one direction, with a grand strategy in mind. Nor for their intelligence or experience. Mattis didn’t become defence secretary because of his erudition, but at least in part because Trump heard he was nicknamed “Mad Dog”. McMaster wasn’t chosen because of his book about the importance of military men challenging political leaders, but because Trump goes weak at the knees when he sees a three-star general. Bolton wasn’t picked for his penchant for pre-emption, but because he regularly pops up on Trump’s TV, which is almost always tuned to the same channel.
As he attempts to make his presence felt in the West Wing, Bolton is likely to meet resistance from Mattis and the president’s chief of staff John Kelly, who are said to be “sceptical” of him. And he appears to have struck some kind of bargain to moderate his bellicose instincts. One source told CNN’s White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins that “Bolton promised Trump ‘he wouldn’t start any wars’ if he selected him as the new national security adviser”.
But even if he sticks to that somewhat pat promise, we can still expect him to exert influence over the president’s thinking, particularly on Iran, where the two are more or less of the same mind. Both Rex Tillerson – recently sacked as secretary of state – and McMaster were proponents of maintaining the Obama-era deal designed to put the brakes on Tehran’s nuclear programme. Trump has made no secret of his disdain for it, and now he will be backed up to the hilt by his own national security adviser. So we can expect this enormous diplomatic achievement to be shredded, despite European efforts to the contrary. But “bomb Iran”? So long as there are at least some adults left in the room that’s unlikely. Help us Mad Dog Mattis, you’re our only hope.
David Shariatmadari is a Guardian editor and writer
Granted, it's admittedly not much, but I'll take what I can get.